Harriet Harman has been criticised for offering only qualified opposition to the Tory's welfare bill. Photo: Getty Images
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Harriet Harman shows just how hard the next Labour leader's job will be

That Harriet Harman doesn't have enough goodwill to take Labour to the centre doesn't bode well for Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper. 

Here’s the big secret of the Labour leadership election: there is not, really, all that much difference between Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

They’re all moderate social democrats pursuing run-of-the-mill centre-left policy programmes. There are minor divisions on policy here and there, but the significant divide is one of tone.

That’s because the Kendall camp believe, in the words of one aide, “you’ve got to give the same answers. The things you say at this hustings have to be the same things you say on Marr, have to be the same things you say when you address Labour party conference as leader for the first time”.

“You have to win the leadership election to win the general election,” one Cooper-supporting MP told me recently. “You can’t fight two elections at once,” was the despairing verdict of one Kendall-inclined staffer.

Who’s right? The hostile tone of Kendall’s Facebook Q&A yesterday suggests they might both be. Thus far, it appears that no amount of worthy, left-wing policy on early years, ending tax reliefs or implementing a genuine living wage will make up for Kendall’s early heresies on free schools and defence spending.

But that suggests that the next general election might yet be decided on the back of Cooper’s insistence this week that Labour didn’t spend too much before the financial crisis, or Burnham’s aside that the 2015 manifesto was “the best” he’d ever stood on.

More troublingly, that much of the anger towards Kendall is also being directed at Harriet Harman suggests that taking Labour to the centre might be more difficult than it first appears. I used to think that Kendall’s problem was that a few months ago, most members hadn’t heard of her, and their first introduction to her was in support of the hated free schools programme.

But now, their deputy leader – the architect of the Equality Act, an MP of 33 years standing and one of the party’s most successful advocates for feminist ideals – suggests that it might be a good idea to oppose some, but not all of the government’s welfare bill, and is almost immediately branded a Tory.

If Harriet Harman - remember that for 20 of those years she's been in opposition - is a secret Conservative, she's been putting an awful lot of work into her disguise. She may be wrong to pick, child tax credits and not another aspect of the welfare bill to abstain on. But her record deserves a better hearing that she's got from her party - and her parliamentary colleagues. That Labour won't give Harman the benefit of the doubt suggests the party faithful are not in a listening mood.

It all suggests that when whichever one of Cooper or Burnham emerges as the winner delivers their first conference speech, they may quickly end up in the same dead end as Harman and Kendall are now. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics. 

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Want to send a positive Brexit message to Europe? Back Arsene Wenger for England manager

Boris Johnson could make a gesture of goodwill. 

It is hard not to feel some sympathy for Sam Allardyce, who coveted the England job for so many years, before losing it after playing just a single match. Yet Allardyce has only himself to blame and the Football Association were right to move quickly to end his tenure.

There are many candidates for the job. The experience of Alan Pardew and the potential of Eddie Howe make them strong contenders. The FA's reported interest in Ralf Rangner sent most of us scurrying to Google to find out who the little known Leipzig manager is. But the standout contender is Arsenal's French boss Arsene Wenger, 

Would England fans accept a foreign manager? The experience of Sven Goran-Eriksson suggests so, especially when the results are good. Nobody complained about having a Swede in charge the night that England won 5-1 in Munich, though Sven's sides never won the glittering prizes, the Swede proving perhaps too rigidly English in his commitment to the 4-4-2 formation.

Fabio Capello's brief stint was less successful. He never seemed happy in the English game, preferring to give interviews in Italian. That perhaps contributed to his abrupt departure, falling out with his FA bosses after he seemed unable to understand why allegations of racial abuse by the England captain had to be taken seriously by the governing body.

Arsene Wenger could not be more different. Almost unknown when he arrived to "Arsene Who?" headlines two decades ago, he became as much part of North London folklore as all-time great Arsenal and Spurs bosses, Herbert Chapman or Bill Nicholson, his own Invicibles once dominating the premier league without losing a game all season. There has been more frustration since the move from Highbury to the Emirates, but Wenger's track record means he ranks among the greatest managers of the last hundred years - and he could surely do a job for England.

Arsene is a European Anglophile. While the media debate whether or not the FA Cup has lost its place in our hearts, Wenger has no doubt that its magic still matters, which may be why his Arsenal sides have kept on winning it so often. Wenger manages a multinational team but England's football traditions have certainly got under his skin. The Arsenal boss has changed his mind about emulating the continental innovation of a winter break. "I would cry if you changed that", he has said, citing his love of Boxing Day football as part of the popular tradition of English football.

Obviously, the FA must make this decision on football grounds. It is an important one to get right. Fifty years of hurt still haven't stopped us dreaming, but losing to Iceland this summer while watching Wales march to the semi-finals certainly tested any lingering optimism. Wenger was as gutted as anybody. "This is my second country. I was absolutely on my knees when we lost to Iceland. I couldn't believe it" he said.

The man to turn things around must clearly be chosen on merit. But I wonder if our new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson - albeit more of a rugger man himself - might be tempted to quietly  suggest in the corridors of footballing power that the appointment could play an unlikely role in helping to get the mood music in place which would help to secure the best Brexit deal for Britain, and for Europe too.

Johnson does have one serious bit of unfinished business from the referendum campaign: to persuade his new boss Theresa May that the commitments made to European nationals in Britain must be honoured in full.  The government should speed up its response and put that guarantee in place. 

Nor should that commitment to 3m of our neighbours and friends be made grudgingly.

So Boris should also come out and back Arsene for the England job, as a very good symbolic way to show that we will continue to celebrate the Europeans here who contribute so much to our society.

British negotiators will be watching the twists and turns of the battle for the Elysee Palace, to see whether Alain Juppe, Nicolas Sarkozy end up as President. It is a reminder that other countries face domestic pressures over the negotiations to come too. So the political negotiations will be tough - but we should make sure our social and cultural relations with Europe remain warm.

More than half of Britons voted to leave the political structures of the European Union in June. Most voters on both sides of the referendum had little love of the Brussels institutions, or indeed any understanding of what they do.

But how can we ensure that our European neighbours and friends understand and hear that this was no rejection of them - and that so many of the ways that we engage with our fellow Europeans rom family ties to foreign holidays, the European contributions to making our society that bit better - the baguettes and cappuccinos, cultural links and sporting heroes remain as much loved as ever.

We will see that this weekend when nobody in the golf clubs will be asking who voted Remain and who voted Leave as we cheer on our European team - seven Brits playing in the twelve-strong side, alongside their Spanish, Belgian, German, Irish and Swedish team-mates.

And now another important opportunity to get that message across suddenly presents itself.

Wenger for England. What better post-Brexit commitment to a new Entente Cordiale could we possibly make?

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.